Bobby Baker can play. I wouldn’t call it a dominant display, but the UAB transfer had one of the most fortunate/skilled/smart games I’ve seen in recording five takeaways (two interceptions and three fumble recoveries). For context, Georgia State had eight takeaways all of last year. Five a game is a pace that won’t be maintained. The rest of the defense seemed much improved from a year ago. It’s true that they gave up more than 400 yards, but they only allowed three points in the second half and the takeaways stopped two more potential scoring drives inside the 20-yard line. Otherwise, this game would have been over by the end of the first half. Of course, the Panthers were playing against an offense in its first FBS game. The rest of the schedule will features teams with much more experience.
Georgia State still can’t run the ball. After an offseason spent adding more depth to the offensive line and to the running backs, the Panthers still couldn’t run the ball. The Panthers finished with 93 yards, and this against a team that was gorged on the ground last year. The line would seemed to bear most of the responsibility. It looked overrun quite frequently. Taz Bateman led Georgia State with 61 yards. Starter Kyler Neal 37 yards. He caught three passes, but also committed a fumble. Coach Trent Miles said the offense struggled partially because Charlotte featured a new defensive coordinator, so they didn’t have any exact game film featuring the 49ers’ personnel in his scheme to study. They did analyze film from the coordinator’s previous places. The 49ers also moved around a lot on the line, which seemed to unsettle Georgia State’s linemen. You can guess what they will see for the next few weeks.
Something wasn’t right with Nick Arbuckle. He was hit hard, often and when he wasn’t hit was forced to move around in the pocket and he didn’t look comfortable doing that. He underthrew several deep passes that might have resulted in touchdowns. By the time he did find the range with a 53-yard touchdown pass to Penny Hart with less than a minute left, it was too late to complete the comeback. He completed 25-of-43 passes for 299 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the end zone. He was sacked twice. “We just didn’t execute (the game plan) like we were supposed to. We had a good game plan, but we just didn’t come out and throw the ball like we did in practice.”
Game’s best tweet
“that blocked FG looming a bit large now”
- Eric Jolly at EJ_IT_Ops
He was referring to an attempted 44-yard field goal by Wil Lutz late in the third quarter. Charlotte got a push up the middle and someone partially blocked the kick. Lutz still got enough on it that it hit the crossbar.
Quote of the game
“We’re still 0-0 in conference play.”
— Trent Miles
It seems really early to try to find silver linings in a season, but that is what the Panthers had to do following Friday’s performance.
Stat of the game
I don’t know if it was a stat, but there were three big plays that were reviewed by officials, two of which went against Georgia State.
The first was a fumble by wide receiver Glenn Smith on Georgia State’s first drive that a Charlotte player picked up and returned 43 yards for a touchdown. It appeared that Smith’s knee was down before the ball came out, but the replays were inconclusive. So, the call of a Charlotte touchdown stood.
The second came when Todd Boyd caught a touchdown pass in the end zone in the first quarter. After reviewing the play, the officials said that Boyd didn’t have control of the ball. The points came off the board. Arbuckle threw an interception in the end zone on the next play.
“We thought it was man coverage, and we audibled to a play that we thought could win with the slot going to the corner of the end zone,” Arbuckle said. “The cornerback that was covering the outside receiver peeled off as the ball was in the air and made a really good play on the ball.”
The margin of error is nil
There were the obvious plays that I’ve gone through that determined the game’s outcome. Here are a few of the non-obvious plays that illustrate how perfect the Panthers have to be to win:
With Charlotte leading 13-3, the defense forces a third and nine at the 12-yard line. One more stop and the Panthers could get the ball back and have a short field. Instead, the 49ers successfully completed a 9-yard pass for a first down. A few plays later, Matt Johnson hit Austin Duke, who got behind Bryan Williams, for a 63-yard touchdown pass.
Trailing 20-3, Baker intercepts the 49ers on the first series of the second half to give Georgia State great field position on the 34-yard line. On the very next play, Arbuckle fumbles the snap and loses six yards. The Panthers were eventually forced to kick a 50-yard field goal.
Trailing 20-6, an Alonzo McGee sack creates a third and 17 at Georgia State’s 48-yard line. The defense gives up a 30-yard pass play for the first down. The 49ers would go on to kick a field goal to make it a three-score game.
Lastly, and this typified Georgia State’s day: Trailing 23-6 in the fourth quarter, the Panthers face fourth and seven at Charlotte’s 38-yard line. Arbuckle drops back to pass, sees an opening and takes off. He tries to make a fake as two players converge, but instead decides to slide. One official seems to indicate that he gets enough for the first down. The chains are brought out and, after a measurement, Arbuckle comes up just short. The 49ers take over.